A Simpler Time – Historical Novels

Cadfael’s herb garden

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always trumps over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” ~ Robert Fulghum

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

I’ve always been a fan of historical novels, movies and TV shows. My particular favorite time period for some unknown reason, is the Middle Ages. In fact, I’ve recently read six or seven series that take place from the late 800s to the 12th century. The Cadfael Chronicle series is my latest binge reading pleasure.

I’ve been pondering my fascination with what most of us would consider simpler times. There are so many stresses in our modern culture and as an introvert and empath, sometimes being out and about can be torture. So, losing myself in a story is very soothing. It’s my attempt to escape being bombarded with people’s stressed emotions, all the noise of technology, and fast pace of modern life.

And yet, if you’re a student of history or read historical novels, you know the times may have been slower, but they were anything but simple. There was just as much conflict between people and countries, travel was always perilous, and health care was much more primitive. There was just as much political infighting and intrigue as there is now. But what makes us think those times were simpler is the fact that there were fewer distractions. Nevertheless, suffering was the same, as was love, and all the other things that make us human. And maybe all of the above is what attracts me to historical novels. The characters have time to listen to and observe each other. They have time to develop relationships over long periods of time. I’m envious of that slower pace of life. As I read or watch, I get to see how the characters deal with their challenges and that helps me deal with my own.

Since we’re going through a particularly stressful time at present, I was happy when I got an offer for several Cadfael ebooks at a fantastic price. One thing I loved about the Cadfael series when I was introduced to it on Masterpiece Mystery twenty-five plus years ago, is the title character. Plus, I’m a pushover the a story told in an unusual way. The series is a wonderful mashup of the 12th century and someone we wouldn’t normally think of as a crime fighter, a monk!

Cadfael is a Welshman who is a Benedictine monk at the monastery in Shrewsbury, England. He came to that calling late in life. Before becoming a monk, Cadfael was a soldier in The Crusades, and later a sailor. In the series, he’s the monastery herbalist making healing tinctures, salves, syrups, and ointments for his fellow brothers and the wider community. Because of his past experiences, he’s learned a great deal about wounds, and to be highly observant of human behavior, which makes him good at solving murders.

Another thing I love about Cadfael is that he is no starry-eyed religious zealot. He’s seen life, and though he believes in God, he has a much more open minded view of theology than many of his brothers. His more humanistic take on God appeals to me because of my religious studies degree. Cadfael has no illusions that the church is completely holy. It is after all run by men, who he well knows, are fallible. And yet, he longs for a quieter life where he can do some good, and that’s what he has found by becoming a monk.

One thing I love about not only the Cadfael series, but all of the book series that are historical, the authors have done meticulous research about trade, travel, politics, war and battle techniques, medical practices, the different professions, and just day-to-day life. The influence of the Catholic Church was very strong during most of Europe from the early middle ages, though remnants of the pagan religions remained. Because of my background, I find that fascinating.

I’ve learned so much about historical events and figures, and of the various time periods from reading these books. They were definitely more fun to read than a dry history book describing events, dates, and names of historical figures. And yet, I often do a little extra research to find out more about these historical figures and the times in which they lived.

Perhaps, the thing I love most is how these novels have helped me get a glimpse into the lives of normal, everyday people who lived centuries ago. And in a strange way, it’s comforting to know that the experiences of those people were not so very different than my own.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in The Cadfael Chronicles series.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it. Here’s to a fantastic weekend for you all.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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